Strep throat can be defined as a contagious condition, which appears due to a bacterial infection (streptococcal). Patients who suffer from strep throat suffer from a wide range of symptoms, with throat and tonsil inflammation standing at the top of the list. This condition is more often seen in children and teenagers, requiring adequate diagnosis and treatment, in order to prevent potentially-fatal complications.
Symptoms of Strep throat
The symptoms of strep throat become obvious after a couple of days from the contamination, this being known as the incubation period. The inflammation of the throat tissues and tonsils causes difficulty swallowing, nausea and vomiting. Patients might also present fever, swollen lymph nodes and white spots on the tonsils. Systemic symptoms can also include headaches, abdominal pain, general discomfort and appetite loss.
Strep throat can lead to a number of complications, this being the main reason why early diagnosis and treatment are so important. Among the main complications, there are: acute rheumatic fever, abscess formation, glomerulonephritis, streptococcal toxic shock syndrome and scarlet fever. Apart from the home remedies that can be used to improve the symptoms experienced by the patient, the antibiotic treatment is required, in order to eliminate the infection. Patients need to drink plenty of fluids, in order to avoid dehydration, such as water, chicken broth and herbal teas. Getting plenty of rest is also essential, as it will allow the body to recover from the infection.
So, Is strep throat contagious?
This bacterial infection is highly contagious, being easily transmitted from one person to the other. One can become contaminated by coming in direct contact with the saliva or nasal secretions of a person who is already suffering from strep throat. Airborne respiratory droplets, contains live strains of bacteria, are responsible for transmitting the infection to other people. Given these methods of transmission, it should come as no surprise that this condition is more often seen in areas where people come in close contact with one another (schools, kindergartens, daycare centers etc.).
How long is strep throat contagious?
- With antibiotics – As it was already mentioned above, the standard treatment for the strep throat is represented by antibiotics. This is necessary not only to eliminate the existing streptococcal infection but also to prevent any complications that may be associated with it. In the situation that antibiotics are administered to the patient, the individual will stop being contagious at about 24 hours after the treatment began.
- Without antibiotics – If the patient does not start the treatment with antibiotics, he/she will be contagious for a period varying between two and three weeks. However, it is not recommended to delay beginning the treatment with antibiotics, due to the high risk of potentially-fatal complications. The longer the treatment is delayed, the higher the risk of complications.
How is strep throat spread?
The strep throat is spread through direct contact with the contaminated person. As you have seen above, the infection is transmitted either through saliva or nasal respiratory droplets, each containing live strains of bacteria. One can also become infected through kissing. In rare occasions, the infection can be transmitted indirectly, through eating utensils or drinking cups.
Strep throat Treatment
Once the infection has been confirmed through bacterial culture, the doctor will most likely prescribe antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the infection and the age of the patient, the antibiotics can be administered orally or intravenously. In the situation that the patient is prescribed oral antibiotics, it is important to take the treatment for as long as it is prescribed, otherwise the bacteria will develop resistance to the respective medication.
Oral antibiotics can also reduce the healthy bacteria at the level of the GI tract, so probiotic supplements should be administered at the same time. As for the recommended antibiotics, these include: penicillin, cephalosporin and macrolides. The latter class of antibiotics is recommended for those who are allergic to penicillin, some of the most often prescribed drugs being: erythromycin, azithromycin and clarithromycin.
Apart from the antibiotics, patients might be recommended to take NSAIDs, in order to improve the symptomology experienced. Among the indicated medication choices, you can find naproxen, ibuprofen and acetaminophen. These can reduce the inflammation at the level of the throat, improving the swallowing capacity of the patient. At the same time, they can eliminate the associated headaches and also bring down the fever.
The strep throat treatment is almost always accompanied by home remedies. Patients are advised to increase their fluid intake, avoiding sugary and caffeine-based beverages (as these can contribute to the already present dehydration). In some situations, cold beverages and popsicles might actually soothe the strep throat and improve the general state of the patient. Herbal teas can guarantee the necessary hydration, as long as they are administered without sugar. Chicken broth is an excellent choice, delivering the patient the vitamins and minerals he/she needs for a speedy recovery.
For the sore throat, one can also consider sucking on throat lozenges. These should be administered only in older children, adolescents and adults, as in younger children they can represent a choking hazard. Speaking about natural remedies, the throat can be disinfected by gargling with saline solution. In order to prepare this natural remedy, all you have to do is mix some salt with lukewarm water. The gargling procedure should be repeated several times per day, in order to obtain the desired results.
In conclusion, this is a medical condition that is contagious and you need to protect yourself, by limiting the contact with those who are infected. This is especially valid if you are working in an enclosed space and you come in contact with lots of people on a daily basis (the same goes for children who go to school). Follow basic hygiene measures and wash your hands and your face with antibacterial soap. Also, if you notice that a person near you is not feeling well, make sure that you refrain from coming in close, personal contact with him/her.